BWW Review: HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS Musical Comedy Satirizes the Brotherhood of Backstabbing Men in the 1960s Corporate World
In 1961, the musical satire of big business and all it held sacred, HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING, explained the secrets of corporate success included luck, charm, connections, and a willingness to use those things to personal advantage. Fans of the TV show Mad Men will certainly feel right at home in the early 60's world of the corporate advertising business where stealing ideas from others was par for the course, as was blaming others when sure-fire planning led to big-scale failure in order to save your own job and continue to the top at the expense of others.
HOW TO SUCCEED with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock, and Willie Gilbert, is now being presented by Torrance Theatre Company under the guidance of producing artistic director Gia Jordahl, as the kick-off for their 2018-2019 season. This blockbuster musical comedy, directed to perfection with fun-loving skill by Jim Hormel, music and vocal direction by Bradley Hampton, and amazing eye-catching choreography by Christopher M. Albrecht, features a score packed with such hit standards as "I Believe in You," "Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm," "The Company Way," "Been a Long Day," "Rosemary" and the show-stopping ode to corporate America "The Brotherhood of Man."
Climbing the corporate ladder has always been easy for some and difficult for others. This somewhat-dated story, given how the "Me Too" movement has changed the male-female office environment these days, follows the rise of J. Pierrepont Finch, who uses a little handbook called "How To Succeed In Business" to climb the corporate ladder from lowly window washer to high-powered executive, tackling such familiar but potent dangers as the company "Yes" men, backstabbing co-workers who want to succeed by causing you to fail, sexy secretaries looking for love and marriage, high-level executives who use their power to seduce sexy secretaries in private offices and at office parties, office-wide caffeine addiction, and, of course, true love.
The triple-threat cast of 29 includes several standout performers, starting with Brady Schwind whose fabulous singing voice and animated stage presence brilliantly inhabit corporate-riser Finch will entice you into following his quick rise to the top. His performance alone is worth the price of admission! His main foil to success is the boss's nephew Bud Frump, perfectly overacted by Bryan Eid to make this satire as humorous as possible. Eid runs circles around the double-level scenic design by Cary Jordhal, often poking his head in when least expected just to make one perfect comment on how he will spoil Finch's latest plan. And of course, like most backstabbers, eventually he gets his comeuppance.
When Finch comes down from washing windows in an attempt to gain employment at World Wide Wickets, the first person to greet him is the embodiment of Sandra Dee herself, Allison Boettcher as Rosemary, a marriage-seeking secretary who sets her sights on Finch, hoping he will be the one to provide her with a comfy life in New Rochelle while he works long hours in the city.
The secretarial duo of Boettcher and Jade Taylor (Smitty) rally the other office girls into believing all their dreams of marrying Prince Charming really can come true in several numbers including "Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm," "Paris Original," and the show-stopping Act 2 opening number "Cinderella, Darling."
Leading the WWW company is Gary Kresca as J.B. Biggley, proving that once you rise to the top, everyone else will do all the work while you can bring in the latest new addition to the sexy secretarial pool. He epitomizes the typical male executive of the time, treating women on his staff as sexual objects rather than admitting they know more that he does about running the company. Certainly his entire executive staff shares the same opinion Biggley does, creating many humorous situations when dealing with the office girls. Perhaps one of the most comical numbers in the show includes Schwind and Kresca mimicking chipmunks during his ode to his alma mater "Grand Old Ivy."
As Biggley's latest extra-martial fling and soon-to-be latest addition to his staff, is Rachel Langetieg who fully embodies the office floozy Hedy LaRue from her curvaceous physicality and Betty Boop voice to the way she can flash her eyes to let you know exactly what she is thinking without uttering a word, generating lots of laughs. Like all the other women, LaRue is out to catch a husband who will provide her with a better life. But who will ever take her seriously, given her role as the married Biggley's personal office eye candy? Well, just wait and see what happens to her and Finch when the Chairman of the Board (Bobby Borich) shows up and shakes the corporate ladder to its foundation!
Catherine Rahm portrays Biggley's long-suffering but always understanding secretary, Miss Jones, who takes a liking to Finch after he uses his book-learned charm to work his way into Biggley's office to gain new employment status in the Mailroom, a place all want to escape from except Twimble (Mathias Garber), the dedicated, 25-years long employee who celebrates "The Company Way" with Finch, who then makes sure Twimble gets promoted by Biggley to ease his next step up the corporate ladder.
HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING performances continue on August 18th at 8pm, 19th at 2pm, 24th at 8pm, and August 25th at 8pm at the James Armstrong Theater located at 3330 Civic Center Dr., Torrance, 90503. Reserved tickets are $35 and select discounted tickets are available for $25, available online at www.TorranceCA.gov/TCACTickets or via phone at 310-781-7171. This satirical musical comedy is extremely entertaining and family friendly, but adult situations may make it more appropriate for teenagers rather than younger children.
The Torrance Theatre Company is a program of the Cultural Services Division of the Torrance Community Services Department www.TorranceCA.Gov. The all-volunteer production includes a technical crew of local high school students from Torrance who get the chance to work backstage on a large-scale musical production to not only assist the cast with costumes, props and scenery, but to gain a first-hand experience of what it takes to support such a large scale production on all levels.
Photo credit: Miguel Elliot